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Martian clouds form, a frozen ship heads home and an orangutan goes climbing

October’s sharpest science shots, selected by Nature’s photo team.

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Painless rats

Lorna Ellen Faulkes

Photographer Lorna Ellen Faulkes captured this amazing picture of a mole-rat colony. Her father Chris Faulkes is a mole-rat researcher at Queen Mary University of London, and one of the scientists behind a paper1 published earlier this month exploring why these strange animals are impervious to certain types of pain.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

  1. This frenetic shot of the mass spawning of two-spotted red snapper (Lutjanus boharnear Palau won the underwater category of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, developed and produced by the Natural History Museum in London. Photographer Tony Wu was not deterred by the strong currents or the fact that his dive site was called Shark City.

  2. Charlie Hamilton James left a camera trap where rangers in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park leave carcasses for bears. This is one of the 200,000 images he captured, a finalist in the mammals section.

    Charlie Hamilton James/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

  3. A camera trap also bagged Nayan Khanolkar a win in the urban category for his shot of a leopard (Panthera pardusin unusual surroundings in Mumbai, India.

    Nayan Khanolkar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

  4. This young lion in Kalahari, South Africa, was part of a pride that spent 14 hours rolling around a pangolin that had curled into a protective ball. Photographer Lance van de Vyver calls his picture — a finalist in the black and white category — Playing pangolin, although Nature’s experts suspect that the poor pangolin was not having a huge amount of fun.

    Lance van de Vyver/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

  5. More pangolins, but this time with a serious message, in this shot by Paul Hilton, winner of the single-image photojournalism award. More than 4,000 of the animals were found being smuggled in a shipping container in Indonesia. Pangolins are poached for their meat and scales, and this is an issue of increasing concern.

    Paul Hilton/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

  6. The overall joint winner of this year’s competition is this shot of an orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) in Borneo by Tim Laman. Remarkably, it was shot not with a conventional SLR camera, but with a small GoPro device.

    Tim Laman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

Maud returns

Jan Wanggaard/Maud Returns Home

The ship Maud was built for the polar explorer Roald Amundsen, who said she was “made for the ice”. After various expeditions that saw Maud being repeatedly trapped in polar ice, the ship eventually sank over the winter of 1930–31. Now she has been refloated and rescued by the Maud Returns Home project, which aims to take her back to Norway.

Small world

  1. Each year the Nikon Small World compition finds something new to surprise us with, far below the limit of our human vision. This psychedelic swirl is β-alanine and taurine crystals, photographed by Matt Inman.

    Matt Inman/Nikon Small World 2016

  2. Under fibre-optic illumination, the stamens of wildflowers can be captured in spectacular detail. This image comes from Samuel Silberman.

    Samuel Silberman/Nikon Small World 2016

  3. Most people have at some point admired a butterfly, but Francis Sneyers gives us a fresh perspective on their beauty with this shot of the scales underneath the wing of a red admiral (Vanessa atalanta).

    Francis Sneyers/Nikon Small World 2016

  4. These remarkably tiny gears are part of the hind legs of a planthopper nymph, captured by Igor Siwanowicz.

    Igor Siwanowicz/Nikon Small World 2016

Fire station aflame

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Fires in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California burned through hundreds of hectares at the end of September, and threatened structures including this one: the Casa Loma fire station.

Fog roll

Lorenzo Montezemolo/

It wasn’t all heat in California though, ahead of Halloween this spooky, long-exposure photograph from Lorenzo Montezemolo captured fog in the San Francisco Bay area.

Southern gleaming

  1. More than 300,000 galaxies are encompassed in this image, the largest, most accurate radiosurvey of the southern sky yet. Ripping through the centre of the picture is the Milky Way, dotted with shell-like remnants left behind by exploded stars (orange bubbles), and scattered with ionized plasma (blue dots) from stars much bigger and brighter than our Sun. The black section in the picture is the northern hemisphere, which is blocked from the view of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). The rainbow streaks are the result of an effect caused by an astronomical interferometer.

    Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin/ICRAR), GLEAM team

  2. This composite image shows the results of the Galactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA (GLEAM) survey above the MWA, which captured it from its home in the Australian desert. Results of the survey were published earlier this week2.

    Radio Image: Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin), GLEAM Team. MWA Tile and Landscape: John Goldsmith/Celestial Visions

Carbon credits

Charles Lindsay

This image comes from Charles Lindsay’s book Carbon (Minor Matters, 2016), which looks at this familiar element in unfamiliar ways. Lindsay is coy about exactly how he creates his “cameraless” images of carbon in its many forms, although he has said that this image was made using a carbon-based emulsion applied to a transparent base.

Mars maven

NASA/MAVEN/University of Colorado

These four photos of Mars show clouds forming over about seven hours. They reveal how clouds topping four volcanoes on the red planet — the circular patches in these images — grow during the day. The image uses ultraviolet light data (false-coloured here) captured by NASA’s MAVEN mission, and was part of a presentation at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Pasadena, California, earlier this month.

Journal name:
  • Additional reporting by Smriti Mallapaty.


  1. Omerbašić, D. et al. Cell Rep. 17, 748758 (2016).

  2. Hurley-Walker, N. et al. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. (2016).

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